Yesterday we got the disheartening but not terribly surprising news that Matt Harvey's elbow couldn't stand the strain of being one of the most energetic elbows on earth. I did my level best to get out in front and say it's (basically) impossible to blame anything for Harvey's injury. Still, nobody should listen to me. Hell, upon careful consideration I shouldn't listen to me. Yesterday was the time for mourning; today is the time for questions, and so Ben Lindbergh's got questions and Jeff Zimmerman's got questions and other smart people will have other questions. Which is good. Questions are good.
Here's one question that comes to mind: Frank Jobe and James Andrews are blaming all these elbow injuries on OVERUSE ... But weren't some smart people saying, not really so long ago, that young pitchers weren't getting hurt because they didn't throw enough when they were kids? That in the good old days when pitchers never got hurt -- well, you know, except for this one and this one and this one and a few thousand other ones -- they went out every day and played catch with Dad and in the winter they just went inside the barn and played more catch.
Overuse? Sure. Maybe. But maybe it's not all the innings in Little League and High School and University. Maybe it's this:
Also to blame is the obsession with 95+ MPH fast balls. I tossed 4527.1 innings over 11 years with slop, garbage, and a dirk in my boot.— Old Hoss Radbourn (@OldHossRadbourn) August 27, 2013
I don't think pitchers get hurt because they throw so damned hard ... but you know, they might. Seems like the harder they throw, the harder the batters swing. They're throwing real hard, which makes it more difficult for the hitters but the hitters do make adjustments, eventually. A pitcher like Matt Harvey throws so hard that the hitters really couldn't adjust ... but would he still have a healthy elbow if he'd thrown 92 miles an hour rather than 96?
I don't know. But he probably wouldn't have been a great pitcher if he'd thrown 92. Which leaves a pitcher with Matt Harvey's arm strength on the horns of a dilemma. As we've seen, just about every single pitcher in Matt Harvey's situation -- which is to say, just about every single pitcher -- will go ahead and throw as hard as he can, and hope for the best. Because what else is he supposed to do?
I used to think that something might be done to limit injuries to pitchers. I don't think that any more. Now I think that the drive to succeed will lead pitchers to throw as hard as they can throw, which will lead to serious arm injuries. Not all of the time or every of the time. But a lot of the time.